Marketing Has Become A Conversation, But Are You Listening To Your Audience?

Marketing Has Become A Conversation, But Are You Listening To Your Audience?

In this guest post, Atomic 212°’s head of SEO, Stephen Downward (main photo), says marketers love of data still don’t bring the result that human empathy can…

Recently, I was contracted to undertake a research project exploring the thoughts and feelings of our fellow Australians. That is our lives, our health and our mental wellbeing at the height of the greatest pandemic since 1918.

Obviously, that’s a very broad question – 26 million Aussies are going to have 26 million different answers. Of course I knew how I felt, but I wouldn’t really call my somewhat apathetic viewpoint any kind of vigorous research finding.

As any search enthusiast may, I started with some basics of Google Trend research; a pulse check, if you may. To my complete surprise, I discovered that yes, Pilates and yoga are a cool way to stay in shape while attempting to escape the daily horrors of 24/7 COVID news and infection-to-hospitalisation-to-death conversion rates.

Regardless, Google Trends wasn’t going to cut the mustard – it simply wasn’t the kind of in-depth analysis I was comfortable presenting to a client and their stakeholders. So, rather than a few generic search trends, I went looking for raw consumer consumption, the good stuff.

I went deep. I went meta. I went full SEO.

I tooled up to the max and scraped data from Amazon, Booktopia and all the major publishers to try and understand what Australians were searching for and the answers they were seeking. From family and health, to fitness, mind, body and spirit, my journey had begun. I did the same with podcast charts, media publishers and any other media that didn’t involve some kind of Pete Evans-fuelled technological conspiracy.

In the days that followed, my research journey became a sad state of affairs and my mood took a dramatic turn inwards. The more I looked at the data and what it signalled, the more I realised how disconnected I was. I wondered if I was too far removed from the challenges everyday Australians are facing that I wouldn’t be able to articulate my research.

As it turns out, the data spoke for itself – so much so that when I presented my findings, a number of people in the room (including myself) teared up in a moment of truth and deep-seeded empathy for everything we were experiencing.

But while these weren’t tears of joy, we realised we had an opportunity to do something impactful. It was a chance to engage our audience in a truly meaningful way, something that was born from a shared experience, a kind of tribal phenomenon if you like.

In a time so polluted with noise, we were truly listening.

Empathy is good for more than business

As marketers, we often forget that humans are more than just users or data points to be analysed. While being data-centric is important, being customer-centric encourages us to consider our shared humanity and walk in our customers’ shoes.

It sounds cliched, but we often forget that we are also consumers outside of our clients.

I truly believe that being customer-centric reaches far beyond building a great website or offering free shipping when you spend over $500,000. Being customer-centric should make us look inwards, it should force us to ask bigger questions as an agency and for clients – questions like ‘why does our business even exist?’ Or ‘why would anyone want to work with us, or buy our product?’

Emotional intelligence, specifically empathy, can truly help us understand more about each other as people and in our daily lives. We share the same hopes and struggles as our neighbours, co-workers and friends. Empathy encourages us to actively listen and to open up to real, two-way conversations (the fact that as an industry we refer to our clients’ customers as ‘users’ is indicative of a language far removed from an empathetic mindset, usually this language is reserved for ‘Narcos’).

The most encouraging part about this increased need to really listen to our customers is that it has come about as a result of them actively engaging in meaningful conversations.

As marketers and brands, we need to start actively listening and responding in kind – because those brands that continue to blindly lecture their audiences and fail to actively listen are going to fall short of consumer expectations.

Engagement made easy through rising participation

As we move closer to Web 3.0 and the idea of a decentralised internet, empowered by a creator community, brand ‘Netocracy’ is coming to an end.

As a result, it’s becoming so much easier to engage with our audiences, because they are eager to participate.

Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends report found that participation is a strong area of growth. While the report acknowledged that participation can be as low in effort as someone posting about a brand on social media, “the deeper, higher-effort forms of participation are gaining in popularity” – which includes “cocreation and developing original content”.

This is illustrated by the rise of user-generated content, which is a goldmine for creating engaging, original, authentic content. Yet some brands continue to leave the proverbial free money on the table.

As for why they wouldn’t want to engage with the kinds of people who want to actively participate with their brand, I suspect it’s because these brands actually don’t have all that much to say.

Want value? Have values!

In a 2019 report, Forrester found a whopping 65% of B2B customers were of the opinion they got too much messaging from businesses.

And most of it was completely useless to them.

It’s all a bit ‘Psycho Killer’: “You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything”.

Part of the reason this has come about is because consumers are more savvy to advertising messages: they recognise when they are constantly being sold something, rather than being offered something – even if the sales pitch is being packaged up in a novel way, like a TikTok video.

Brands who fail to engage their audiences through authentic conversations and actively listen will also fail to meet the changing expectations of consumers. Their brand value will diminish, and consumers will seek to work with brands that reflect their own values and the changing values of the community as a whole.

And as publishers, content creator and marketers, it falls upon us to discuss these challenges with our clients and work to help them. Because if we’re going to be publishing content, we should try to solve customer problems rather than just sell a product.

It was interesting to note in Deloitte’s report “an overwhelming trend rose to the fore” as to the reason why people participate: “People are most motivated to participate in an effort to help others.”

How long do you think these audiences are going to stick around – for positive reasons – if they’re there to help and the brand just keeps hammering a sales message?

People see through the lies and inauthentic behaviour. It’s wearing thin.

Shared challenges paint the bigger picture

Ultimately, to be truly customer-centric, marketers and brands must gain a deep understanding of who their customers are, and the challenges they’re facing. But over-reliance on analytical data alone can reinforce bias, create blind spots and limit innovative thinking.

Marketers should look to the wider state of the world and our shared challenges to ensure we don’t miss the bigger picture.

Then we should engage in the smaller conversations – because our audiences are eager to tell us what they want.

We just have to be smart enough to listen.




Please login with linkedin to comment

Atomic 212 Stephen Downward

Latest News

Mark Tompkins Adds Creative Power To Enthral
  • Advertising

Mark Tompkins Adds Creative Power To Enthral

Storytelling agency Enthral has bolstered its creative offering with the addition of Creative Director Mark Tompkins. Tompkins joins the agency with more than 20 years of experience and a who’s who of agencies in Australia and London on his CV, including TBWA, DDB, Clemenger and Ogilvy. Until now, all of Enthral’s creative work has relied […]

Mat Baxter! Wippa! Tinder! – Epic Cannes in Cairns Sessions Locked In!
  • B&T Exclusive

Mat Baxter! Wippa! Tinder! – Epic Cannes in Cairns Sessions Locked In!

We’re just days away from Cannes in Cairns, Presented by Pinterest, and the few remaining tickets are flying out the door and it’s not surprising with the likes of Mat Baxter, radio host and 36 months co-founder Wippa joining the slate! Lead image L-R: Kat Dopper, founder and creative consultant at Heaps Gay, Queer Agency […]

Is Yoshi A Non-Binary Lesbian? The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Of Google AI Fails
  • Technology

Is Yoshi A Non-Binary Lesbian? The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Of Google AI Fails

If you’ve made a quick Google search over the last few weeks – and let’s face it, who hasn’t – you would have noticed a different feature appearing at the top of your search results. The Google AI search feature launched earlier this month, generating a clear answer based on information for each of the […]

TV Ratings (29/05/2024): Seven’s The 1% Club UK Tops Wednesday Night Prime Time 
  • TV Ratings

TV Ratings (29/05/2024): Seven’s The 1% Club UK Tops Wednesday Night Prime Time 

The game show, hosted by comedian Lee Mack, reached 1.51 million viewers with an average Total TV audience of 853,000. Ten’s MasterChef posted an average audience of 596,000, and Nine’s The Summit recorded an average audience of 558,000. The 1% Club also came out on top in average audiences across the key demos of 25-54 […]

Apple’s Latest Ad Makes Animators The Star
  • Campaigns

Apple’s Latest Ad Makes Animators The Star

A new minute-long spot from Apple spruiking its iPad Pro has made animators and their creativity the star. The ad features American actress Sofia Wylie on one piece of green screen footage, with three animators using the iPad Pro, with its new M4 chip, and the Apple Pencil Pro to create imagined worlds. The “Forest” […]

Majority Of Aussies Want Privacy Over Personalisation As Optus & Medibank Data Breach Fallout Revealed
  • Marketing

Majority Of Aussies Want Privacy Over Personalisation As Optus & Medibank Data Breach Fallout Revealed

Three-quarters of Australian internet users are more concerned about data security and privacy than receiving personalised services, such as advertising, a national consumer study by market research firm Honeycomb Strategy has revealed. Nine in ten consumers want transparency around how their personal data is handled, 72 per cent said a company using their data for […]

The Monkeys Nab Creative Directors From Goodby Silverstein & Partners
  • Advertising

The Monkeys Nab Creative Directors From Goodby Silverstein & Partners

The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song has announced the bolstering of its creative department, welcoming two new associate creative directors, ex-Goodby Silverstein & Partners creative team Lennie Galloway (L) and Thomas Gledhill (R). Galloway and Gledhill have been working together for almost a decade. They began their career at FCB New Zealand, winning Cannes Young […]

‘Life Is Too Short For Your Work To Not Have A Positive Impact On Society’: The Tall Planner, Kate Smither Chats With Fernando Machado
  • B&T Exclusive

‘Life Is Too Short For Your Work To Not Have A Positive Impact On Society’: The Tall Planner, Kate Smither Chats With Fernando Machado

Here, B&T hands the reigns to Kate Smither, also known as The Tall Planner, for an inspiring chat with her former colleague, legendary marketer Fernando Machado on the eve of his eagerly anticipated keynote at Cannes in Cairns, Presented by Pinterest. I had the absolute privilege and pleasure of working with the brilliant Fernando Machado […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Cristiano Ronaldo Tries To Resurrect NFTs With Binance Collection
  • Marketing

Cristiano Ronaldo Tries To Resurrect NFTs With Binance Collection

Thought we’d finally seen the back of NFTs? Well, think again as Portuguese soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo and digital currency exchange platform Binance have launched a new collection of NFTs celebrating his career. The ‘Forever Worldwide: The Road to Saudi Arabia’ NFT collection offers fans new insights into the iconic locations that were pivotal in […]

Samsung Ads & Nielsen Study: Allocate 30% Of Total TV Budget To Streaming
  • Advertising

Samsung Ads & Nielsen Study: Allocate 30% Of Total TV Budget To Streaming

A new Samsung Ads ‘Behind the Screens’ study by Nielsen has revealed that advertisers can maximise reach and efficiencies by allocating 30 per cent of their Total TV budget to ad-funded streaming. The study demonstrates how advertisers can deliver greater impact among key demographics through a 70/30 combination of linear and streaming ads without increasing […]

Mindshare & Avid Collective Highlight Reef Conservation Efforts In New Pro-Bono Campaign For Citizens of the Reef
  • Campaigns

Mindshare & Avid Collective Highlight Reef Conservation Efforts In New Pro-Bono Campaign For Citizens of the Reef

Avid Collective has unveiled a new, pro-bono campaign for environmental charity Citizens of the Reef, as it works to promote the group’s efforts to conserve Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. The campaign, which launches this week, is in partnership with Mindshare and supports the organisation’s annual Great Reef Census. Avid and its publisher partners provide […]

Dentsu: Australian Ad Spend Slowly Growing
  • Advertising

Dentsu: Australian Ad Spend Slowly Growing

Dentsu has predicted global ad spend to grow by five per cent this year, following “major shifts” in ad spend by geography and media channels across 56 markets with Australian spend growing, albeit slowly. The holding company predicts that $US754.4 billion ($AU1.14 trillion) will be spent worldwide by the end of the year, marking more […]

First Nations Art Takes Over oOh!media 3D Anamorphic Billboard In Melbourne’s CBD
  • Campaigns

First Nations Art Takes Over oOh!media 3D Anamorphic Billboard In Melbourne’s CBD

A new digital artwork by Gumatj artist and filmmaker Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu from The Mulka Project in North East Arnhem Land will be featured on the Bourke Street 3DA billboard for one week only through a new National Gallery and oOh!media partnership. Transporting himself from North East Arnhem Land to Naarm/Melbourne’s CBD, Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu’s Bäru Gurtha […]

News Corp Australia Restructures Business
  • Media

News Corp Australia Restructures Business

News Corp Australia has restructured its business into three divisions and will make a series of redundancies, including the departure of News.com.au editor-in-chief Lisa Muxworthy. The restructure essentially removes the roles of several senior editorial executives and centralises power along national lines. The Australian Financial Review reports that the restructure aims to save $65 million […]

Olympics Set To Lose Keys To Major Sponsorship Deal After Paris
  • Marketing

Olympics Set To Lose Keys To Major Sponsorship Deal After Paris

Reports out of Japan this morning suggest that Toyota will not be renewing its partnership with the International Olympic Committee after Paris 2024. When announced in 2015, the automobile brand’s deal was reportedly valued at $1.2 billion. The partnership extended across four Olympic Games and ended at the end of the 2024 Paris Games. Japanese […]

Foxcatcher Launches WorldView Retail, Predicting Customer Lifetime Value
  • Technology

Foxcatcher Launches WorldView Retail, Predicting Customer Lifetime Value

Foxcatcher, RyanCap’s data and technology business, has launched its new audience and activation product, WorldView Retail, to help marketers predict customer lifetime value. The WorldView Retail model predicts each customer’s lifetime value through behavioural segmentation and first-party data, allowing marketers to design more targeted journeys. Worldview Retail enables brands to maximise ROI and customer growth […]

LiSTNR & DataCo Technologies Partner To Accelerate Its Data Cleanroom Strategy
  • Advertising

LiSTNR & DataCo Technologies Partner To Accelerate Its Data Cleanroom Strategy

LiSTNR has announced a key partner to further accelerate its data cleanroom strategy with DataCo Technologies. The additional data cleanroom solution will allow advertisers to integrate their own databases with LiSTNR’s 1.95 million first-party database, which ensures campaign effectiveness and local safety and privacy compliance. DataCo Technologies is a leading home-grown, Australian cleanroom solution with […]

Canteen Australia Appoints UM As Media Agency Of Record
  • Advertising

Canteen Australia Appoints UM As Media Agency Of Record

UM Australia has been appointed as Canteen’s media agency of record, effective immediately. UM’s remit for Canteen encompasses performance and above-the-line media strategy plus planning and buying, with a clear objective to grow supporter numbers in order to reach more young people impacted by cancer. Andrew Clift, managing partner, (house of performance), UM said: “To […]

Anytime Fitness Launches “Find Your Fit” Audio Campaign, Via The Hallway
  • Campaigns

Anytime Fitness Launches “Find Your Fit” Audio Campaign, Via The Hallway

Anytime Fitness Australia and The Hallway have released a new audio campaign under the “Find Your Fit creative” platform launched late last year. The campaign, which runs on Spotify and targets listeners across Australia’s most popular music genres, introduces us to a cast of unique gym goers whose music tastes complement their workout styles. Directed […]

Spotlight On Sponsors: Eels Latest Deal Leaves NRL Fans Divided
  • Marketing

Spotlight On Sponsors: Eels Latest Deal Leaves NRL Fans Divided

The Western Sydney Wanderers have signed an epic new sponsor as they look to expand their inclusive competitions. Meanwhile, someone needs to tell the Parramatta Eels that renewing an old sponsor isn’t enough to win them a premiership again. Welcome back to B&T’s Spotlight on Sponsors series, where we break down all the major sponsorship news from […]

Paramount’s Beverley McGarvey On Diversity, Authenticity & Respect Across The Board
  • Partner Content

Paramount’s Beverley McGarvey On Diversity, Authenticity & Respect Across The Board

One of the busiest women in the industry, B&T pestered Beverley McGarvey, president of Network 10 and head of streaming at Paramount ANZ, just enough that she agreed to chat with us. After stints at TV3 in Ireland and Mediawork NZ, McGarvey made the move to Network Ten in 2006, starting out as the head […]

Partner Content

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Redefining Brand For The Mobile Age: Jay Morgan Launches POPULA
  • Marketing

Redefining Brand For The Mobile Age: Jay Morgan Launches POPULA

Multi-award-winning creative leader Jay Morgan has launched POPULA, a creative brand agency on a mission to redefine brand advertising for a mobile-first world. Working as a creative and innovations director at The Monkeys from 2017 – 2020, Morgan saw a gap emerging in creative content. “We were asked to create content for more and more […]

Ash Barty & Michael Hooper Among Sport Superstars Joining Stan Olympic Coverage
  • Media

Ash Barty & Michael Hooper Among Sport Superstars Joining Stan Olympic Coverage

With less than two months until the world’s eyes turn to Paris, B&T was delighted to be in attendance at the beautiful Bennelong Restaurant at the iconic Sydney Opera House as Stan Sport announced its comprehensive coverage plans for 2024’s showpiece event – the Olympic Games. Stan Sport will feature every event from Paris 2024 […]

Porsche Reviews Creative Agency
  • Advertising

Porsche Reviews Creative Agency

Nothing says "midlife crisis" like a Porsche, does it? Or for men who can't afford one - the ill-thought-out ponytail.